Monday, December 31, 2012

comment on Bryce & McKibben op eds in WSJ, thanks to a heads up frm Joe Romm

 This is an edited cross post of a comment I wrote at Joe Romm's blog. His blog has the links for both the Bryce and McKibben tests.

Bryce’s weakest point is failure to address climate change damage.
Let’s also tackle his strongest suit, growing global electricity demand, which he presented with an assumption that the global electricity market must be satisfied.
The strongest primary, but not complete, answer is greenhouse gas-driven climate change has the power to sweep away the stability needed to underpin that market for electricity.  Without reliable crops or secure housing and work, the art of supplying electricity deteriorates like a battery without a charger. 

That warning, however dire and true,  does not offer a progressive alternative to the billions of people on this planet who quite accurately link electricity to quality of life, be it street lighting or the controlled air pressure in a hospital operating room or a phone.

Although wind power is a big help for the domestic United States electricity market, we have to face that the burgeoning electricity market is elsewhere; India, China, Brazil, Indonesia, South Korea, which do not have scoped out big wind resources.
We have to tackle non-fossil alternatives for electricity generation in growing economies around the world, so that Bryce’s one strong point can be defeated.

Friday, December 28, 2012

corporations as people, inverted

As much as I despise the twisted legal construct of 'corporations as people' I think the way to unravel its tortuous nature is to push though cases that emphasize equal protection under the law.

Among these would be an abundance of test cases that expose corporations' tax breaks.

If corporations are people, they should pay tax on gross income, not only on their profit!

Alternately, why not have individuals and families be treated equally with corporations and be able to subtract many more expenses before paying tax on what is left of the income at end of year?

...not bloody likely!

In pushing for correction of this invidious policy of corporations as people, I don't share the libertarian-wrap-around-to-liberal view (ouch) of selective payment of taxes for favored causes, which circumvents the legislative process of hammering out compromise which keeps "We the People" as at least a semi-functional aggregate, "We."

As for how this has anything to do with planning ahead/ Planting Ahead, consider that fossil fuel corporations have exploited enormous tax breaks and tax subsidies and can load lobbying efforts with astounding amounts of money.  They have bought or bullied Congress into quivering dysfunction when Congress should be facing the compelling matter of climate change.

Corporate tax exemptions threaten our ability to protect ourselves through our democratic/federal deliberative process.

There must be more to say.. .....indignation and outrage.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

when metaphor leaves it up to you to fill in the words

Joe Romm, author of Language Intelligence, recently blogged on the use of extended metaphor, reminding readers of Lincoln's powerful metaphor of "A house divided." Joe Romm specifically criticizes President Obama in comparison to Lincoln, calling out, "the failure of Obama to be a rhetorically inspiring leader on climate."

For regular verbal metaphors, I agree. I love quotes that evoke an image, no matter how brief, as in,  "Show me the beef," or "Read my lips."  In contrast, Obama's "Yes, we can," has only a shadow metaphor, a ghost metaphor full of pale images of various kinds of cans. That leaves me in a state of visual confusion.
None the less, I'm going to cut Obama some slack, and he can thank Woody Allen, if he wants to.

Nearly forty years ago, I spent an evening with friends at a Woody Allen movie marathon.  Hour after hour we laughed at slapstick and funny juxtapositions. The next morning, I woke up to the realization that Woody Allen worked a lot with visual, non-verbal, versions of metaphors. In scene after scene, it felt funny, but it wasn't until I verbalized what I'd seen that I saw how many visual puns and metaphors Allen had inserted in his movies.

So how does that give Obama a pass for not being a good rhetorician?

I'd make the case that Obama is a metaphor himself. Once I describe him verbally, as I did the scenes in the Woody Allen movies, then the metaphor comes together - or falls apart - as the case may be. 

Obama could himself be the metaphor for our country's heterogeneity, not quite rootless nor fully rooted, re-inventing ourselves, restlessly on the move, dribbling the proverbial basketball, looking for an opening.  He's the image of the self-created man in a self-created country.  He is a metaphor.

Even so, it wouldn't hurt if he took a hint from Romm.

Friday, December 7, 2012

A fourth R. Return, with a vengeance.

For the Three Rs, I used to say, readin', 'ritin' and 'rithmetic, until I learned Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
I want to add Return.
Lately I've been steamed by the amount of junk that develops because of poor workmanship. I feel angry and  defeated when I have to pay for electronics recycling or at least wait in line at the transfer station to hand it over.

I own what is called an apothecary lamp, an adjustable floor lamp purchased from an Eddie Bauer store in 1997, thinking it would comfort my terminally ill father to have a reading light, and also help the visiting nurse and myself to change my father's medical dressings. The lamp turned out to have an unstable on-off switch and a lack of washers and screws sufficient to keep it from working itself apart in the normal course of adjusting positions.  In the midst of looking after dad, I lost the receipt.
I still mess with the lamp, trying to eke some value out of the purchase, but I'd feel like a million dollars if I could justify packing it up and return it to Eddie Bauer with the message, Since you made it, You reuse it or recycle it!

I feel the same way about a Hewlett Packard combination printer-fax and scanner that became completely dysfunctional in all its categories after a small plastic part in the paper feed broke. It's too late to get money back. What I want is for them to be responsible for having created a complicated piece of trash, with plastics, chemicals, glass and metal, that I feel ashamed to have to take to the dump station and pay to recycle because it is electronics. Darn it, I want HP to have to do the dirty work of taking their contraption apart and disposing of it. 
I'm not a Luddite, but when I buy something I want it to work perfectly and last a long time. Increasingly I need to ask myself, am I willing to see a product through its dysfunctional senescence? Does it "age" well?

I once bought a bottle of wine for six dollars and hid it at the cool damp end of the basement. Over five years later it turned out to be as delicious as the e-bay price of about $27 suggested it might be.  Now why can't we have electronics that do that?!

I want to return the stuff that doesn't grow better with age.
I found the box for the printer, at least.

the Pearl Harbor question.

Joe Romm has again asked what kind of "Pearl Harbor" event would prompt an end to procrastination about climate change.

He writes: "And it certainly will take more than one climate Pearl Harbor.  I fear it will take most of these happening over the span of a few years:

  1. Arctic goes [virtually] ice free before 2020. It would be a big, visible global shock.
  2. Rapid warming over next decade, as Nature and Science articles suggest is quite possible (posts here and here)
  3. Continued (unexpected) surge in methane
  4. A [multi-year] megadrought hitting the SW [and Great Plains] comparable to what hit southern Australia.
  5. More superstorms, like Katrina.
  6. A heatwave as bad as Europe’s 2003 one [Russia's in 2010] but hitting the U.S. breadbasket.
  7. Something unpredicted but clearly linked to climate, like the bark beetle devastation.
  8. Accelerated mass loss in Greenland and/or Antarctica, perhaps with another huge ice shelf breaking off, but in any case coupled with another measurable rise in the rate of sea level rise.
  9. The Fifth Assessment Report (2012-2013) really spelling out what we face with no punches pulled."

Of them, 4,5, and 6 would be up close and personal to many Americans, but none of them has the moral indignity of an unprovoked attack.

Joe's revised list is more reminiscent of conditions before Pearl Harbor. In 1940 the fall of Paris shocked Americans, eroding support for isolationism. In 1940-41 American military build up preceded Pearl Harbor. Congress was ready to support FDR's declaration of war by the time of the attack.

In the last two years, combinations of flood, drought, and superstorms have knocked back water transport in the Mississippi and Great Lakes, ranching and farming on the Great Plains, and the security of Atlantic coastal cities. These events shocked Americans and eroded support for denialism.

The next phase could be worse. Continued drought and heat could kink rails, dry up rivers, and reduce both food crops and the ability to move the crops to market.  China could have a famine and call in its chips on US debt, in the form of food. Americans could have to ration food, temporarily, to pay off the debt.

Similarly, an earthquake, war and/or superstorms could disrupt oil import ports, leaving the US to fall back on its vaunted national supply. That could mean scarcity and a price jump.

Neither good. My epiphany a few weeks ago was that we were more likely to see something major in the next 6 to 48 months, than not.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Three breaths

Three slow breaths

1st Breath: What is my primitive brain doing: fight, flight, sex, or sleep?

2nd Breath: What are my emotional brain and short-term memory doing?

3rd Breath: How well is my neocortex doing with critical thinking skills?

I admit this personal practice has little to do with the content of issues of a changed future, it just helps.